Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Feb. 28, 2000

LP school considers truancy issues

By Luis Puga

Lester Prairie school administrators were directed to investigate the possibility of setting a policy of acceptable/unacceptable absences for students Tuesday at the Lester Prairie School Board meeting.

The suggestion came from Board Member Nancy Krull, after a discussion of information presented by Principal Richard Hartshorn in his elementary school report.

The idea was to stave off certain types of excused absences. The example given was a student excused from school to prepare for prom with a tanning appointment.

"In some instances, we're being taken advantage of. We need to put some teeth into this thing," Hartshorn said.

Harthsorn has met with the McLeod County Attorney to discuss truancy and is waiting to get some information.

However, he noted that in some cases of excused absences, a parent might allow a child to skip school for a sickness that does not warrant an absence. He said that handling such situations were up to the discretion of the district. While he said the problem has gotten better than it has in the past, he would like to see it addressed.

Dean of Students Joe Miller agreed, but wondered if such a policy would result in a lawsuit. He noted that after five absences in the high school, a student's grade is affected and wondered if that was much of a deterrent.

Board Member Barry Kyllo said that districts such as Hopkins have zero tolerance on the issue and have a list of "bogus" absences that are not acceptable.

Board Member Fred Blaser noted that sometimes parents are unaware that their children are not in school. He said that some kids simply have a notebook full of excused absences and can take off from school anytime they please.

Krull said she would like to see the option of a list of unacceptable excuses made up before the next year. Hartshorn added a warning that it may upset many parents.

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